After an up-and-down showing at the Winthrop Tournament, the Virginia softball team rebounded in a big way at the Wings Etc. Classic in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Cavaliers (8-5, 0-0 ACC) went 3-1 in the tournament, getting off to a strong start by winning their first three games against Maine, La Salle and Tennessee Tech before falling short in their final bout with USC Upstate.
Virginia was slated to face Tennessee Tech twice in the tournament, but the first match-up between the two scheduled for Friday was cancelled.
Game 1 — Virginia 1, Maine 0
The Cavaliers faced off against the Black Bears (1-3, 0-0 America East) Friday to kick off the tournament. Both teams started off sluggish with neither squad able to land a single hit in the first inning.
However, at the top of the second inning, Maine came within striking distance. The Black Bears started the inning with a single from sophomore infielder Kelby Drews followed by a double to left field by freshman infielder Jasmine Gray.
A pitching mistake proved to be nearly catastrophic for Virginia as Maine junior utility player Shanna Scribner was hit by a pitch while up to bat, allowing the Black Bears to load the bases. However, the Cavaliers managed to avert disaster, forcing two quick strikeouts and a groundout to keep the game scoreless.
Virginia’s batting woes continued into the second and third innings, as the team was unable to land a single hit despite having two players get on base in the bottom of the third with walks from sophomore outfielder Bailey Winscott and junior infielder Savana Avilla.
Strong pitching kept the Cavaliers in play, as the Black Bears also struggled at the plate with the exception of a single from Gray at the top of the fourth inning.
Following uneventful fourth and fifth innings, Virginia finally got into a rhythm in the bottom of the sixth inning, catalyzed by an early double by Avilla.
After a pop-up from sophomore outfielder Tori Gilbert, a single from sophomore catcher Donna Friedman paid huge dividends, allowing Avilla to score the one and only run of the game.
Virginia managed to fend off the Black Bears in the remaining inning, going on to win 1-0.
Game 2 — Virginia 10, La Salle 2
Virginia carried their momentum from the late innings of their bout with Maine into their Saturday game against the Explorers (0-4, 0-0 Atlantic 10).
Gilbert led the Cavaliers in the bottom of the first inning with a double to right center and later advanced to third base on a passed ball. A single from freshman infielder Katie Goldberg opened the door for Gilbert to score, putting Virginia in the lead 1-0.
The Explorers responded rapidly at the top of the second inning, when the Cavaliers were plagued by inefficient pitching with balls resulting in multiple walks for La Salle.
At the midway point of the inning, another collection of balls thrown by Virginia resulted in a walk for freshman outfielder Maddy Little, allowing freshman catcher Victoria Zatko to advance to second and senior utility player Emily Conaway to advance to third.
Another Cavalier error placed La Salle in the driver’s seat with Zatko and Conaway scoring to take the lead 2-1. Virginia managed to exchange blows with the Explorers, however, responding with two more runs of their own in the bottom of the second from Winscott and sophomore catcher Ashley Jennings to go up 3-2.
Despite a promising start to the third inning for La Salle with a double from junior catcher Ashley Mendenhall, the team’s momentum quickly fizzled out with three quick strikeouts.
The Cavaliers took this opportunity to extend their lead, scoring a massive four runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Goldberg kicked things off this time with a double that was followed up with another double by Friedman, giving Goldberg a chance to score. With back-to-back groundouts for Virginia, however, the remainder of the inning began to look bleak.
Nevertheless, a single from junior outfielder Kate Covington proved to be momentous for the Cavaliers, as it sent Friedman home for another run. After a single from freshman infielder Mikaila Fox, a wild pitch from La Salle pushed Virginia further ahead as Covington scored.
The inning was capped off with a steal of home by Fox, giving the Cavaliers a commanding 7-2 lead. La Salle continued to struggle in the fourth and fifth innings due to stellar field play from Virginia. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, continued their hot streak, scoring three more runs in the final two innings from Gilbert, Covington and sophomore infielder Emma McBride.
The Cavaliers came away with a convincing 10-2 victory going into their pair of games on Sunday.
Game 3 — Virginia 9, Tennessee Tech 2
In their first game of their doubleheader on Sunday, Virginia took on Tennessee Tech (8-6, 0-0 Ohio Valley).
The Cavaliers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning with a home-run to right center from Goldberg. As the Golden Eagles’ offense sputtered in the bottom of the first, Virginia built upon their lead with three runs in the second.
The hot streak was spurred by a double from Covington, who later picked up a run off of a single from Wiscott. With Winscott on second, Gilbert cracked a double to right field, finding home plate later in the inning to put the Cavaliers in a commanding 4-0 position.
After a scoreless third inning, Tennessee Tech found their opening. Golden Eagles sophomore pitcher Haeli Bryson managed to get on first base following a Virginia error and later advanced to second via a single from sophomore catcher Raleigh Lewis.
Tennessee Tech freshman first basewoman Nicolle Nysted then singled to left field resulting in a run from Bryson and Lewis’ advancement to third. Lewis scored later in the inning on a single by senior outfielder Beth McCulley to narrow the Cavalier lead, 4-2.
Despite the Golden Eagles closing in, Virginia all but put the game out of reach in the top of the fifth inning. The team caught fire in the early going as Friedman homered, scoring along with Goldberg.
It did not stop there for the Cavaliers, as Covington homered to left field later in the inning — resulting in two more runs for the Cavaliers. Fox later homered to left field, extending the Virginia lead to 9-2.
With the Cavaliers holding a near insurmountable lead, Tennessee Tech was unable to muster a response, delivering Virginia their third win of the Wings Etc. Classic.
Game 4 — Virginia 2, USC Upstate 6
Going into their second game on Sunday, the Cavaliers ran into a roadblock in tournament host USC Upstate (12-2, 0-0 Big South).
After an uneventful first inning, Virginia remained unable to score in the top of second. The Spartans capitalized, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second. Freshman infielder Tiffany Domingue and freshman utility Max Barnes were the main contributors, putting USC Upstate in the lead 2-0.
The Cavaliers appeared to be poised to strike back in the third, after a double from Avilla and second-base steal from Gilbert later on put the team in a favorable position. However, a third strike out stopped them in their tracks.
The Spartans capitalized on Virginia’s missed opportunity landing four runs in the bottom of the third. Sophomore shortstop Sarah Price ignited the run, stealing third base in the early going and later scoring via a single from senior catcher Alyssa Oakes.
USC Upstate maintained their rhythm as a double from Domingue set up freshman outfielder Dezi Williams to complete another run. Barnes homered a massive hit next, tacking on two more runs and extending the Spartan lead to 6-0.
Virginia looked to close the gap in the fifth as multiple singles and a walk opened the door for Fox to put the Cavaliers on the board 6-1. Windscott also found home plate near the conclusion of the inning to tighten things up at 6-2.
However, it proved to be too little too late for the Cavaliers as the team was unable to garner more momentum going into the sixth inning.
Despite a strong first three games to the Wings, Etc. Classic, Virginia was unable to sweep the field being dealt a loss by the Spartans in the final game.
Nevertheless, this is a promising start for a Virginia team that has struggled coming out of the gate in previous years. The Cavaliers will look to build off this strong performance against Clemson in their first ACC series of the season Friday evening. The first pitch of this three-game series in Clemson, S.C. is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ACC Network Extra.